Anti-Spam

Anti-Spam

Business

Technology has invaded our lives. Everyday we spend several hours checking social media and email. Personally I hate updates: all the background noises and flashy messages that pop up on my phone to alert me of things that I don’t really have time for. I’ve turned the majority of my notifications off. This is why I choose not to advertise using email. To bombard you with useless notices about something that you really don’t need – it irritates me as I imagine it does you.

If you search the Internet for marketing tips one of the strategies you will see is building an email list. It is the number one sales tool for companies because it gives you a direct pipeline to people’s private lives. It is also said that “conversion rate” or turning clicks into sales, is highest in emails, bringing a higher return than social media. This is why people are always trying to get you to sign up for email lists. They believe you are better primed to spend money and it’s these kinds of tactics that I have learned to dislike.

Therefore I have deliberately decided to meet marketers’ advice to shout as loud as possible at people to get their attention by any means possible with my own silence. In this one area anyway. I do advertise. I occasionally take out ads on Etsy. I publish pictures and notifications on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ (although I don’t know why I bother with the last one). And I’m considering hitting up several businesses to drum up client work. Because how else will people know that I exist?

But social media is the kind of space where you have more latitude to control who you let in. And it’s momentary. Something pops up. Then it quickly moves to the bottom of the list, evaporating from view over time. Unlike the unending, never expiring mailbox. Social media can also be conversational, not just a one way shouting match, where you can talk to a real person and not just a corporate image. If my story is interesting enough I think social media should be sufficient for my advertising purposes.

A lot of this attitude is learned by working my booth at a craft fair or art show. I can see people’s immediate reactions when their faces and body language change after I try to start a conversation. Anything more than “hello” and people run away afraid of aggressive sales tactics.

I’ve talked about this before. Going to a small Sierra mountain community and being welcomed like an old friend was a shocking experience for me and my wife. We are so used to being hit up for money that we have become distrustful of strangers. And that is a sad state, but one that I’m intimately familiar with.

I used to be one of those aggressive salesmen in the mall trying to get you to sign up for credit cards you didn’t need. I hated being in that position. I felt awful and sleazy, but when your job depends on car salesman tactics you either comply or go hungry. Today, I take that life lesson seriously by trying to give people the space and freedom to browse on their own, because as someone who’s been around this aggressive sales culture long enough I think it is important to respect people the same way I would like to be respected. Maybe I can even capture some of that Sierra mountain friendliness and bring it back to the urban sprawl.

Being friendly, approachable, joking, taking the time to demonstrate and inform – these are worthy attributes that outweigh any benefits I might receive with an email advertising campaign that junks up your inbox. I want to be personable. Human. Not a salesman. And in order to serve that principle I will strive to be less invasive. To treat you like a friend which is easy enough since if you like dinosaurs and beer, chances are we have a few things in common.
 

Copyright © 2016 Robert C. Olson

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Passion Sucks PT 2

Passion Sucks Pt 2

Random Thoughts

A friend of my wife has recently become really excited about blogging for the vegan food movement and in a conversation about being really happy they thought, “Is this passion?” This comes after my last article about how passion sucks… there’s nothing wrong with that. Finding the thing you love is a good thing and I don’t want to take away from that, but here’s one possible reason why things look good right now: this blogger is living her dream, as opposed to daydreaming about it and never making it happen.

Listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Hidden Brain, an episode popped up about how daydreaming can become an obstacle to success. The study and book about the effects of positive thinking by Gabriele Oettingen, who wrote Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside The New Science Of Motivation, talks about how positive thinking puts people into a mental state that mimics accomplishment before they have even started out and actually creates negative results.

This is the trouble that I have with wishful thinking, or passion in this case: it’s not moving the ball down the field. You are not gaining any momentum and if we consider the interview below it may actually be counter productive. The resolution, it turns out, is to be more realistic to counteract your flights of fancy.

Learn more about how to overcome this problem by listening in and be sure to check out the rest of the catalog. It’s a great show that I highly recommend.

Listen to the Hidden Brain Podcast: WOOP, There It Is! here. 

 

 

Copyright © 2016 Robert C. Olson

Special Combo

Special Combo

Business

I love making sets of prints. It makes a lot of sense to get the buyer to want to complete the collection, but I’ve found that this doesn’t quite go down the way that I intended. I might have to change up my tactics a little.

My art is on the cheap side of the print world. Rock poster gods typically do larger prints for twice as much money – on the low end. So my pricing undercuts them by a lot, but I’m also not quite at the thirty to one hundred dollar class yet. My street cred is low and my talent needs shoring up in a few small places, but I figure in another five thousand hours I’ll start catching up.

In the meantime I’m hoping to build enough stock to bring in a steady stream of online sales and that might be purely volume based. That is to say: the more prints I offer the better sales will be. Right now it’s a small collection and the more popular earners on Etsy just have bigger collections.

In my head I think, “You can make up the difference by promoting sets”. Sell two or three at a time and it’s just as good as the higher end sales. Then I can keep building stock and have the previous prints pay for the new prints. Problem is, customers are only buying one at a time.

I’m not entirely sure why that is. Maybe they are only in love with a single print and not so much the rest. Or with shipping prices maybe they’re doing the math and thinking “I have to buy a frame too,” which adds to the overall costs of a single print. In any case people are not buying the sets so clearly my strategy needs some tweaking.

One problem is my inconsistent marketing. I’m still trying to get a feel for pushing product online and being socially awkward I’m not sure what to do or say other than be myself, which I think sometimes pushes people away. Nevertheless I need to a) take some social media dietary fiber and get more regular on my posting. People respond really well when I’m consistent. And b) be a little less advertisey. Recently I ran a bunch of posts that were heavy on the marketing lingo and I got ZERO reaction. Not that I’m surprised really, because I hate advertising myself. Lesson learned. Chill with that shit.

However, I don’t do a good job of showing the sets together and I need to start promoting the sets and not just the individual pieces.

Another issue could be that people are not quite impressed with my style yet – or maybe I haven’t fully fleshed out a style and people smell weakness. This will take care of itself in time, but I’ve seen worse things go out so I kind of think the problem lies somewhere else. Besides, I’m getting likes on my work, just not – what’s the word – conversions. Which tells me people like it plenty, just not enough to fork over cash-money.

One customer hinted that if there were framing options they might be more inclined to make the buy and that has been ringing in my ears ever since. I like to build crap with wood so if I can find a way to quickly and cheaply manufacture my own frames then I can sell the prints + frames as a package deal. I really want to believe that this will help sales, but part of me thinks it’s only marginal at best.

Ultimately I think it comes down promoting effectively. I loath advice that tells you need to chase down keywords and like and follow your way to the top. It feels sticky like car salesmen tactics and I get that it works, and if you want to make money… blah, blah, blah. It’s clear to me that going too heavy on advertising doesn’t work because people get turned off by it. You need to have a plain message that appeals to customers (which is still advertising) without sounding and looking like advertising.

One last thought: the stuff I’m making is pretty niche. I’m not sure how many people really like Cats with geometric shapes or 666 posters (which at this time has 1 view in the past 30 days – my worst performing poster to date – compared to my highest performer which has 43 views), so maybe I need to mix it up with a couple of prints with broader appeal.

Be more consistent. Spell it out for people. Don’t be a car salesman.

Hey thanks for listening. Sometimes I just have to work it out.

Copyright © 2016 Robert C. Olson

Take Chances

Steps Into Darkness

Random Thoughts

My beautiful wife has started setting aside time to work on herself lately – I’m so proud of her – and recently she has been thinking out loud about how taking risks is an important part of growth. I agree with her that risks are a part of life and the people that I see growing the fastest are the risk takers, but neither one of us is really a daredevil. So what does that mean for us?

I’ve known for a long time that I wouldn’t fit into a certain mold. I’m not a wheeler-dealer, or fast talker. I’m not able to sell the pants off a chimpanzee or bring people together locked in kumbaya arms even for free hamburgers and beer. At one time I thought I could pull some tabula rasa shit and force myself to become a different person and I actually had some success. Although it was a lot of work and I just ended up feeling like crap and fraudulent. I’ve decided that it’s time to pull back and focus on the things that when distilled, boils down to that brown-black, crusty essence of Rob that’s left after all the water burns off. In a way the riskiest bet you can make is to lay down your identity. That thing that gives you a Spiderman origin story and helps you bind together all the mismatched jigsaw pieces of the world that forms your perspective. If you lose that bet you’ve gambled everything you’ve ever known about the world sending you silently screaming into in a psychopathic dissociative meltdown. Quite a lot to risk.

Generally speaking I think the United States has become culturally risk averse. I hear a lot of talk about crime and there seems to be an abundance of anxiety about it, but when I think about it I can go outside right this minute and freely walk in places that twenty years ago I might have been shot or mugged in. We have warning labels on things that should be obvious. We worry about the tiniest details to the point where young people are now becoming defensive for other people, whether it’s needed or not. People fear government overreach even though nobody has really threatened anything that drastic – well, nobody currently in power that is. The future is uncertain and it’s almost as if we don’t know how to be happy unless we have something to be worried about. In reality things have never been as good as it is right now. It might feel like desperate times, with Paris, San Bernardino, and now Brussels under attack. My heart goes out to Brussels, so I don’t mean to make light of their suffering, however if you ask any Syrian refugee to compare their lives to ours I’m pretty sure you’re going to see a huge dichotomy.

In a previous post I talked about having good people around you and more than a few times I’ve found that to be true. I was born with more bone in my skull than brains so it can take some time before lessons get hammered into my head, but keeping good people around is one condition that has saved my ass time and again while taking risks. Without that firm ground to stand on, without the confidence of being able to retreat into a safe place, and without a cheer-leading section to keep your momentum up it can be difficult to grow.

For those people that I count among my friends all of them live with varying degrees of risk taking. Some have gone more or less solo, chasing down that dream of being your own boss. Something I aspire to. Others are locked in jobs that make them feel like their life is a waste. Something I’m sympathetic to. The best of us find hobbies and interests that make us real people outside of work instead of cardboard cutouts that get propped up in cubicles and storefronts. Wasting away. Trapped in the chains of the economy. Public policy. “Synergy” and oceans of pointless vomit, piss, and shit built up over the centuries and sold as gold bricks by previous generations. We all crave something better, but it can seem daunting to take on massive institutions.

If I look at people who have built a solid business they don’t look like me. Outgoing, gregarious, smart with money, well invested, and well planned. I don’t really see those qualities in me. Others might, but impostor syndrome is a real thing. What I’ve realized though, after a couple of years in the working world, is that no one knows what the f**k they are doing. We are all just making this up as we go. That realization was an empowering moment. It’s as if I was given permission to learn by screwing up, which really is the best way for a thick-headed ape like me to learn, because everyone else is screwing it up right alongside. So when risk goes from something that keeps us up at night to transforming into a life lesson in disguise then it develops into an important tool for growth that you can kind of manage.

Fear, and fear of failure, is a significant factor to overcome especially if you are like me and risk averse. The wife shared an Instagram post with me from designer, Nathan Yoder of Yonder Studios, who points out that sometimes that fear might just be laziness, or as he says, “… sometimes I’m merely too tired to even try failing.”

Lunchtime sketch in the park. The other day I was thinking about the whole "fear of failure" idea. It struck me that, though at times that fear is very real, sometimes I'm merely too tired to even try failing. I think at times we can get so caught up in the stresses and burdens of our days that we don't even allow ourselves the first steps towards something worth fearing to fail at. This can come from past failures which have caused us to become tiresome and cautious or simply from our obliviousness to all that we are capable of. There is so much in life to be thankful and excited for. I don't know about you but I think a world of excited people sounds like a more fun place to be a part of than one filled with pessimistic people and I don't want to be one of the later bringing down the first. I hope that if you haven't found that thing that gets you jazzed that you will soon and, if you find yourself tired of trying, I hope that you will find once again that childlike curiosity that sees the best in others and constantly wants to go, ask, try, and do.

A post shared by Nathan Douglas Yoder (@nathanyoder) on

It’s worth noting that fear might be hiding under the guise of stress so that if you are running from place to place, plugging holes, barely keeping your head above water, its is very, very hard to justify the necessary risks when you are draining your resources on other things. You only need to go as far as the nearest poverty stricken nation to see what desperation does to taking risks. But this rings true for us as well since we work full time during the week, fighting for space to work on side hustle projects.

The United States government and Small Business Administration like to say that it takes five years for a business to sink or swim. I’d be willing to bet that you can tell in three. In the first year you are going to lose money. Just plan on it. The initial investments alone are going to set you back more than you’ll earn. I’ve had to put money down on a press, some screens, ink, paper, websites, Etsy fees, shipping costs, advertising and on, and on. So far I’ve spent more money than I’ve made by a margin so wide it probably makes the Grand Canyon resemble the G.I. Joe sized rivers I made in the backyard with a garden hose when I was a kid. Until my Mother would come out yelling at me to turn off the damn water. The second year you break even because you’ve figured a few things out, but are still learning to walk. In my case I now have a stockroom full of work that I can sell either in person or online. By year’s end I expect to break even after a few sales, recovering from previous purchases. By year three you can actually turn a profit because you’ve developed into a mature business with your shit kind of in order. Hopefully all the ground work that I’ve laid today will translate into stability going into the future that will allow the business to support itself. So that’s what financial risk looks like. Not too bad if you think about it.

Fear, time and lack of energy, all gang up against your hopes. I don’t think it’s hopeless though. If you can schedule an hour a day, a couple of days a week then you can start building steam. That’s something you can decide to do right this minute – one hour during lunch, or after dinner, every Wednesday. Commit to a schedule and do the work whether you feel like it or not. If it’s something you enjoy then you’ll probably turn your mood around anyway, just by taking the first steps. Sometimes I don’t want to draw, but if I force myself I find that I don’t want to quit because I’m having fun. Don’t stop there though. You have to put your work out there. Post it on Facebook and watch people’s reactions. You’ll probably be surprised at what people appreciate and while it’s implausible to please everyone you might find the confidence to take another step further out onto the stage exposing yourself a little more each time. That’s how I did it. And from that seed grows the knowledge that risk is nothing more than a teaching tool to make life better. Because every time you push out a little further, things become more exciting. Packed with potential. We can train ourselves to push the limits, not because a motivational poster told us, but because we have found the intrinsic and extrinsic values of being in control of our lives.

Over time that step out into the darkness will feel less like an abyss and more like an adventure.

Planning Sucks

Planning Sucks

Random Thoughts

Heard a great quote recently, “Love the planning. Hate the Plan.” As far back as I can remember with my beer-brain planning was never something that I took seriously. Planning somehow crushed the free flow of ideas and stalled improvisation – an important key to my overall happiness. At some point I learned that my on-the-fly moves were pretty weak. So now I am taking steps to look into the future.

One of the biggest motivators in life is age. Growing old doesn’t really bother me, but I do track the approaching end with a little panic in my heart, because I see how badly our parents are aging. Several friends are finding out after the fact that our parents are having heart attacks, strokes, developing diabetes, or cancer. Debilitating diseases that often get hidden by the people we care about. My Mother, who is well past the age for retirement has several health problems and did her utmost to hide them, in my mind serves a kind of canary in the coal mine.

Given that her genes run through me I can see some mile markers coming up. As far as I can tell I probably have 15-20 good years of work left in me before my health starts heading south for the cold, dark winter. Since my nine to five is very physical I don’t foresee continuing to retirement building sets. I could probably draw pretty pictures from the hospital bed so that seems like a good retirement plan since my savings probably isn’t going to provide for my golden years. Even if our parents don’t blow up the social security dam in one last selfish hurrah before they go the way of the dinosaurs.

Focusing more on this year I have decided to commit to twelve illustrations in twelve months. This is an arbitrary number that you may have come across thanks to the modern miracles of social media. However it is one that may set the bench mark for future work. See, as a Do-It-Your Selfer I don’t really know what the f**k I’m doing so by committing to a number that from this vantage point appears reasonable I can look back from New Year’s Eve 2016 and say whether or not things look good and make adjustment for the next year.

That’s about as good as it gets.

One thing that I’ve discovered in the working world is that all of those grownups that from the outside looked like they knew what they were doing are just making it all up. Nobody knows what they are doing. Everyday provides new and unforeseen challenges for everyone and now that I’m one of those people making decisions (f**king weird) I get to first hand see how things can blow up in your face with or without plans.

That’s what is meant by “Love the planning. Hate the plan.” Plan as meticulously as you want, but be ready to throw it out the window in a moment’s notice, because shit goes wrong.

I’ll probably be able to surpass twelve illustrations for the year. However, now that I’ve committed to twelve illustrations I can start thinking about what it takes to get there such as: how am I going to promote these illustrations? How much will it cost to print them? What is my earning potential for the year? Can I be strategic about what illustrations I create? Who will be interested in these drawings and where can I find them?

I still hate planning. But the urgency of impending doom and the value of being able to see how all the pieces fit together makes planning something that I do now. Albeit on a limited scale. This will probably grow as things start to take off. Coordinating with venues, printers, show directors, manufacturers, and people of the planet Earth will demand it. Since my DIY style is to learn by doing this process will be organic and clumsy, but it’s the way I learn best. The way I think most people learn.

So twelve pictures. Twelve months. I already have three in the pipe and two under development and by the time of this writing it is nearing the end of February. Things are looking good. If you haven’t seen them, check out my recent posts on Twitter, Facebook or now Instagram. I’m going to go plan the next beer to drink.

 

copyright © 2016 Robert C. Olson

Buck the Cubicle Pt1

Video: Buck The Cubicle Pt 1

Videos

Making a slow go at finding my own freedom to work at home, this video (one of two at the time of this writing) provides a tasty snapshot of one man who stands on his own two feet by working metal into art. Nice inspiration for going solo.

Made A Thing

Random Thoughts

 This weekend is my first art walk and I needed a display. So I made one. DIY bitches.

Everyone Is An Artist

Random Thoughts
Band

Photo by Tony Fischer

A feeling of frustration clouds conversations with artists these days. Dismay over how flooded the  market is constantly comes up with printmakers, illustrators, photographers, DJs, musicians, writers, graphic designers, videographers and other artisans. Technology, both the boon and the thorn to artists has done much to alter the landscape of creative markets.

Renegade Craft Fair Tomorrow

Events

Tomorrow is the Los Angeles Renegade Craft Fair – a gathering of DIY crafters like you and me – with handmade products, art, music and food.

RFC will run Saturday and Sunday, July 26 and 27, at LA’s Grand Park, 200 N. Grand Ave., on Broadway between Hill and 1st St.

The market will be open from 11:00 to 6:00.

RCF is free. Paid parking will be available nearby and the organizers encourage you to us the ParkMe app to find spots in the area. Pets are encouraged.

 

 

Copyright 2014 © Robert C. Olson